The 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, more widely known as “March Madness,” is finally here and that means brackets, brackets, and more brackets for office pools.
Sixty-eight schools will be competing to reach the title game on Monday, April 6, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Most pools are the same. The winner is usually decided by who has the most correct entries and the winner of the tournament.
The typical point system for the tournament is very basic. Many pools will assign an entrant one point for correcting predicting first and second-round winners, two points for the third round, three points for the Sweet 16, four points for the Elite Eight, five points for the Final Four, six points for the National Championship, and seven points for picking the champion.
The first round begins Tuesday with four first-round games. Some pools count these games, others don’t because a No. 16 seed has never taken down a No. 1, so it’s not like they can gain any more more points deeper in the tournament.
For novices there are some helpful hints in terms of picking, even if the tournament is largely an unpredictable animal. For the most part, a No. 12 seed usually ends up beating a No. 5, and No. 13 seeds have been known to take down a No. 4.
It’s rare but No. 2s and No. 3s have been known to fall before the third round, and No. 1s typically make it at least to the third round, better known as the Sweet 16, or beyond.
No. 6s vs. No. 11s are rife for upsets as well, but its important not to get too carried away with picking upsets. Usually the tournament is won by a No. 1 or 2 seed, and you can make up some points by picking upsets, but the real trick is getting the Final Four correct.
Right now Kentucky is far and away the big favorite, sitting pretty as the only undefeated team in the country and gunning for a huge slice of history. The last time any team went undefeated in the regular season and the tournament was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, and the Wildcats are the odds-on favorite to equal the Hoosiers this year.
Thus when picking your Final Four, Kentucky has to be one of the teams, but not necessarily your champion if you think someone else can swoop in. However most people will have Kentucky winning, so its best to mix up your three other predictions for the Final Four because that’s where the points will be.
Also, with Kentucky being such a prohibitive favorite, the tiebreaker could decide a lot of pools this year. The usual tiebreaker for the tournament is deciding the final score of the championship game. Since 2004, the champ has won by an average 10.3 points, and all but two have been decided by fewer that six points. Predicting an almost-blowout by 10 points or a comfortable seven-point win might the best strategy for the tiebreaker.
A downloadable and printable bracket can be found here.